Check out gta4.net, which beautifully summarizes the huge Game Informer preview on GTA IV. Enjoy the nuggets of info below. I’ll have more thoughts on this later.
* The protagonist’s name is Niko Bellic – an Eastern European immigrant who has come to Liberty City to live the “American Dream.” The game is set in Liberty City in 2007, but it is bigger than the Liberty City we saw in GTA III.
* The GTA 4 equivalent of the Statue of Liberty is called the Statue of Happiness, and DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) is known as BOABO (Beneath the Offramp of the Algonquin Bridge Overpass).
* In Grand Theft Auto IV, Rockstar have recreated 4 of the 5 boroughs in New York, as well as part of New Jersey. Broker is the GTA IV equivalent of Brooklyn, Manhattan is now called Algonquin, Queens is now Dukes, the Bronx is Bohan, and New Jersey is Alderney. The map is smaller than San Andreas, but considerably more detailed. No countryside or desert, we are led to believe.
* Pedestrians are far more realistic in GTAIV than in previous GTA games – they sit on benches, smoke cigarettes, read books and generally act like any real pedestrian would in the middle of a street.
* The screenshots in the preview are not representative of the final quality of the graphics, Rockstar insist. The game will only look better as the release draws closer..
* Niko was persuaded to move to Liberty City by his cousin Roman, who claimed to be living a wonderful life there with two beautiful women, fifteen sports cars, and lots of money etc, but he was in fact telling a lie in order to hide his own failures. Roman is the only person you know in Liberty City at the beginning of the game, and he becomes one of your major connections at the start. Niko is a tough character whereas Roman is friendly. Roman is heavily in debt and a lot of people are after him – he needs Niko’s support. They are constantly bickering.
* The demo (which was played on Xbox 360) begins with Bellic standing inside of the taxi depot, which Roman operates in the borough of Broker in a converted industrial garage. Roman works at a cluttered desk in a shabby environment, and at this point the graphical improvements are extremely evident. Bellic walks to a brownstone house in Broker, where he pushes open the door and pulls out a pistol. The living room however, is not occupied. He then moves onto the kitchen, which he also finds to be empty. He pushes his way through the back door and smashes the window of a red four-door car using his elbow. The broken glass falls onto the street and onto the seat of the car, as Bellic unlocks it from the inside. He hotwires the car and sets off to his next destination. The camera angle behind the car is closer to the vehicle than in previous GTA titles, which enables more detail on the car to be seen. After selecting a radio station, Bellic navigates to a section of the BOABO arriving at a dockside with a terrific view of the city skyline. Pigeons can be heard in the sky, and waves can be heard rustling in the water. Bellic then pulls out his cellphone which has options for Phonebook, Messages, Organizer and Camera on it’s LCD screen. He selects Phonebook, and he is then presented with another set of options: City Contact, Docks Friend, and Cab Contact. After a brief conversation he informs the reciever to meet him at the docks.
* As Bellic walks, you can feel the weight behind each step he makes. Variations in the terrain cause realistic changes in the walking animation. The physics have also improved and character movements are more realistic.
* In previous GTA games you were like a slave because you had to constantly take orders from people when doing missions. There is still an element of that in Grand Theft Auto 4, but you can also choose how you want to spend your time, for example “I want to hang out with him and her. I want to hang out with this guy because he always has fun things to do.” Call him up and maybe you can hang with him. Maybe he’ll answer. You have a lot of choice over what you want to do.
* In GTA 4, Rockstar is giving its players more freedom, more choice, and more sense of control over their destiny – the structure of GTA4′s storyline is quite different to it’s predecessors as it can be told in a number of different ways. You can talk to people in person, by cell phones, and there are a bunch of other ways of giving the player information. In general it’s a different experience, with new ways of interacting with the characters and the game world.
* Rockstar consulted crime experts and ex-policemen when making the game, and they learned that being a criminal is a lot harder these days than it was during the 80s and 90s (for example) and they have tried to reflect this in the game. This means you can expect to see a lot of people getting arrested – the police are a heavy presence in Liberty City.
* There are no planes in GTA IV because there is only one city, and Rockstar want the game to seem realistic. That means there will be no rollerblades, no unicycles, probably no jetpacks and indeed no planes. Rockstar are giving choice and variety which feels right for the character. However there will be motorbikes.
* Rockstar North is approaching the recruitment of voice actors in a different way. This means that we will probably hear less familiar voices in GTA 4, as R* are looking for voices which suit the attitude of the characters, and are not just looking for big names. A similar approach is being done with the soundtrack – Rockstar are looking for great music which works with the 2007 Liberty City.
* After an initial load sequence, the game will never load again. Not even during exterior-interior transitions (and vice versa).
* Both versions of the game (Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3) will likely be identical, but the Xbox 360 version will have exclusive downloadable episodic [sizeable] content. Rockstar have now spent over 3 years developing the game, and Dan Houser compares the leap from GTA III to GTA IV, to the leap from GTA to GTA III.
* GTA IV will have multiplayer, but it’s not going to be a massively multiplayer online game, says Dan Houser. They are trying to make something that is interesting, fun, progressive and which goes along nicely with the single-player game.